Elon MBB Set to Battle Former SoCon Rival Furman Thursday Afternoon

ELON, N.C. – Elon University men’s tennis will travel to South Carolina on Thursday afternoon, Jan. 26, for a matchup against former Southern Conference rival Furman. First serve between the Phoenix and Paladins is set for 3 p.m in Greenville.

The Phoenix split its only doubleheader of 2017 by topping Monmouth 4-1 before falling to NC State by the score of 7-0 at J.W. Isenhour Tennis Center in Raleigh, N.C. In the win against the Hawks, Elon dropped the doubles point before sweeping Nos. 1-4 singles to earn the win. Three of the four singles wins came in straight sets, including Mario Paccini’s 6-0, 6-4 win at No. 2 and a 6-1, 6-4 win by Salvador Mijares victory at No. 3. Later in the day against the Wolfpack, both Petar Tomic and Felipe Osses-Konig took matches to decisive third sets, but NC State pulled out both to complete the sweep.

To date, Elon and Furman have met 17 times with the Paladins holding a slight 9-8 advantage. The two sides met last season on April 10 with the Phoenix earning a 6-1 home victory. Dating back to 2013, Elon has won each of the last five matches against Furman, which included the 2014 Southern Conference championship match Elon took 4-1 in Chattanooga, Tenn., to advance to the NCAA Tournament.

Opening the season on Saturday, Jan. 21, Furman dropped a 6-1 decision on the road to Harvard before falling 4-3 in a neutral-site match in Cambridge, Mass., to San Francisco. Last season, Furman went 13-11 and 5-2 in SoCon play and reached the SoCon Championship match before falling there to East Tennessee State.

The Phoenix posted a 17-6 record throughout 2016, which included a 12-3 mark in matches played at the Jimmy Powell Tennis Center. After losing three of the team’s first five matches of the season to No. 13 Duke, No. 40 NC State and No. 1 Virginia, Elon went 14-2 in its final 16 regular-season matches. The run included a seven-match winning streak from March 11 to April 3 and was capped with a win over No. 62 William & Mary. Elon dropped a 4-3 decision in the semifinals of the CAA Tournament to College of Charleston to finish the season.

In the Jan. 4 release of the ITA rankings, Neal Port and Salvador Mijares checked in as the 42nd-ranked doubles duo in the country. The ranking marks the first time either player has been ranked in their respective careers. The two had a stellar showing during the fall season at the ITA Carolina Regionals, earning three victories in a trip to the quarterfinals, which included a win over the nation’s 33rd-ranked duo of Jack Murray and Ronnie Schneider from North Carolina. Together this season, Port and Mijares are 1-1 with one match unfinished against NC State.

Elon returns 2016 CAA Rookie of the Year and Felipe Sarrasague, who was also named a first-team All-CAA honoree. The Phoenix also bring back fellow All-CAA first-teamer Mario Paccini. Seniors Petar Tomic and Chris Humphreys earned a spot on the All-CAA first team in doubles.

True freshmen played a big role in Elon’s 2016 success. Taylor Foote (1), Salvador Mijares (13), Felipe Osses-Konig (6), Mario Paccini (13) and Felipe Sarrasague (15) combined for 48 of the team’s 86 singles wins (56 percent) over the course of 2016. Sarrasague and senior Robert Lindgren led Elon with a team-high 15 dual-match singles wins.

Elon will open the season with six matches away from the Jimmy Powell Tennis Center. After playing Monmouth and NC State, the Phoenix travels to Furman, VCU and Old Dominion. The first home match of the season for Elon is set for Feb. 8 against Liberty and is the first of four in a row at the Jimmy Powell Tennis Center.

Winner of the 2016 CAA Coach of the Year award, Michael Leonard is now in his 13th season as Elon’s director of tennis and head men’s tennis coach. Leonard is a five-time Southern Conference Coach of the Year and has led Elon to five conference championships and two NCAA Tournament appearances to date, the last coming in 2014.